If you ever want to know what guides an artist’s visual thoughts, look at their walls in their studio; not at their work, but the images of others’ art, or magazine clippings of current events. Usually you will see themes emerge. I want to bring your attention to one print that has occupied my studio walls since grad school and has been catching my attention recently.
In this earth-toned oil painting, Pablo Picasso painted a boy and his horse walking together. The right leg of both boy and horse are positioned forward and sized similarly, the left leg of the horse and left arm of the boy are mirroring shapes. It is not these technical decisions that catch my attention when I look at the painting, but what is missing.
Recently, I went to a lecture given by artist, architect and memorial designer, Maya Lin. During her talk she emphasized her work that has an overall environmental theme, and spent a good 1/3 of her time talking about a new online memorial she is currently working on, called What is Missing?. On this site she illustrates our rapidly changing earth and creates a virtual environmental memorial of places and events that have changed or gone missing. Please visit and add your memories of your environmental experiences that have gone missing because of changes on our earth.
The current NYC carriage horse ban that Mayor de Blasio has proposed has got me wondering what will be missing if horses are banned from our cities. Edward Chamberlin wrote a beautiful article in the opinion pages of New York Daily News, citing facts of man’s relationship with horses that initiated some 6,000 years ago. His well- crafted words do this man/animal covenant justice. Why remove horses from our city lives? Why segregate, and only experience our relationship to animals in rural environments? Blue Star Equiculture, has been fiercely vocal and true ambassadors for the need for horses in our urban and rural lives. As I venture deeper into the Contemporary Pastoralism project that I have developed, these two, social practicing artist and farmer, help me understand the deep-seeded reasons of why I bring natural materials to my sculptures.
The Japanese have the phrase, "natsukashii furusato," meaning, an old memory of my hometown; a memory that is felt. In our slick world of florescent lights and computers I strive to bring back a memory of texture and smell that is a part of our collective past. Only one or two generations ago, sheep, horses, cows, were a part of our lives helping build cities, clothe and nourish ourselves and communities.
So what did Picasso leave out in his painting that has me looking up at my studio wall? The subtle gesture of holding reins that are do not exist illustrates connection, innate communication and an understanding between the boy and his horse. If horses are removed from the city, if our childhood memories of the environment are only witnessed through a virtual world because they have gone missing, we start to forget that we are a human animal, and become isolated and alone in the world.